Whatever writing project you’re working on, at some point you’ll face the need to revise and polish your work. If the project is short, then the revision process is likely to be intense and relatively quick. But if you’re tackling something longer and more ambitious, like a novel, then you have a much tougher row to hoe.
Some writers prefer to stop-and-start precision revision: they like to rewrite and polish as they go, though this can seem painfully slow. Others prefer to barrel on from beginning to end: they like to get everything down on paper and then circle back to the beginning and reshape their prose from start to finish.
One very useful approach to revision — especially when you’re working on a meaty short story or a novel — is to approach it in waves by segmenting key elements of your story and then looking at them from an editing standpoint. A few examples:
Make a dialogue pass: Isolate all the dialogue you’ve built into your story and review it. Is the dialogue for each character written in a consistent style? Does it sound believable and colorful? Does it advance your plot and/or reveal character?
Make a description pass: Isolate all the descriptive passages in your story and review them. Do the passages vary in length and pacing? Are some of the passages too long and overly complex? Are they repetitive? Do they create a strong sense of place or are they more decorative?
Make a plot pass: Look at your story structure from a plot perspective and isolate and list all the key plot points in your story. Do they unfold in logical progression? Does each plot point provide forward motion? Does your plot structure provide a satisfying springboard for action and character development? Does it build toward a satisfying climax?
Using a segmentation strategy for revision can make it a much more manageable and coherent process. Breaking it down this way also makes revising a long piece of work seem less daunting. One approach I’ve found helpful is to use different-colored Magic Markers to box or highlight chunks of dialogue and description in a chapter. I might use green for all my dialogue sections and blue for all my descriptive passages, for example. This is an easy and visual way to check whether a chapter strikes a good balance between dialogue and description. Hope you’ll try this and let me know if it works for you. Write on!